As more of us are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in the near future and as better targeted treatments ensure survival rates continue to improve, an increasing number of the population will find they are living with and beyond cancer.
Whilst it's admirable that through research and early diagnosis, cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was, the psychological and emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis and the gruelling treatment which often follows, needs to be considered. Many cancer patients feel that the hardest part of the experience is once treatment has finished and they are then left to re-build their lives, searching for that elusive 'new normal' whatever that may be.
In 2016 there are still only 40 Psycho-Oncology Departments covering the whole of the UK. These hospital based units are led by Consultant Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Clinical Nurse Practitioners. Funding is sporadic and departments are subject to cuts. Whilst emotional issues are often dealt with through the charitable and private sector using Counsellors and Complementary Therapists, the vast majority of cancer patients are left isolated and alone to deal with uncomfortable and difficult feelings once treatment ends.
From last week, cancer patients now have another tool they can use. They have the opportunity to download 'Coping with Cancer Explained', a self-help booklet written by Professor Alex Mitchell in conjunction with staff and patients who have experience of dealing with the emotional difficulties that accompany cancer. The booklet is available free to patients at Leicestershire Partnership Trust and also free with Kindle Unlimited. To everyone else it can be downloaded for £2.75.
The 6 week Step by Step Programme addresses common emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, anger, denial and distress and offers practical tips focusing on what you can do to feel better even when living with a difficult diagnosis.
Another tool that can be used to address the Psycho/Emotional issues of cancer for both patients and their family is CancerStories. This collection of video diaries from real patients is available 24hrs a day on www.YouTube.com/mycancerstory or on the website www.cancerstories.info.
CancerStories now has a collection of over 100 videos covering a wide variety of different cancers. We are hoping to make our first video with a young person after collaborating with The Teenage Cancer Trust and are making a presentation at Maggie's Centre in Nottingham soon to help reach more patients struggling with emotional difficulties.